When can we see that a man is a man and a woman is a woman? In the shower?
Yes of course but that is too superficial. Renier is looking for another
way to see the differences in the sexes. Curiosity.
His video produced to accompany the exhibition SIGNBOOKCODEWORD
outlines the visible differences between genders. In doing so another
story is being presented; we are transformed into voyeurs watching the
camera at a book fair has documented the way man and woman have decided
to view a book. Only two manipulations were done to effect the reactions.
First he hermetically sealed the books. Second he explained that each
book contained a photograph.
There was observable commonality between the initial reactions. Both sexes
realized quickly the books were objects and perhaps art, therefore they
asked permission to touch and treated the books with respect. The real
difference came after a further investigation began. Strangely the men
did not react differently after a longer investigation. They asked the
Can you open them?
How did you make this? Are you a bookbinder?
Are they for sale?...How much do they cost?
The questions were simplistic and on a very material level. They were
confronted with an object that could be flipped and turned but yielded
very few other possibilities.
Interestingly the women saw the books as an opportunity to exchange an
They asked the following questions.
Do I have to destroy the book to see the photograph?
Do the page markers signify the placement of the photograph?
What are the photographs about? Why don't you let me see them?
The women handled the book differently from the men. They not only twisted
and turned the books but tried to pry them apart. Constantly looking for
the hidden photo if only just a peek. The women not only asked more questions
they also made statements reflecting their frustration. They openly admitted
their emotional response, as if to say "How could you!?"
Renier's video indeed depicts these separate reactions but he is also
telling a separate story within the story. He gives us a clue as to what
the books can mean.
The soundtrack gives us the key to imagining the possibilities of the
book or the content of the photographs??? A woman's voice is heard saying
simple words...the book titles. They are alphabetical and we can deduce
she is reading from a list. Then between each title we hear a slap. This
noise is not immediately recognizable until we hear her say ouch and laugh
a playful laugh. Pleasure and pain or the pleasure of pain the background
soundtrack leaps to the foreground. A new layer added to the mystery of
Man Woman Pleasure Pain Foreground Background
could have all been titles for these books. Not only is dualism being
explored but the evidence of sub-cultures. We know sub-cultures exist
but if we are not an active participant we cannot know how they function.
Renier has created a sort of game, the rules are unclear but the prize
is within reach. We watch the video and take our time as it loops and
loops abruptly we stop and look around to see if perhaps he is filming
The University of Iowa film
"I was constantly searching for an explanation to my
work. I knew what I liked and what I was trying to state is an ongoing
experiment but I had lost track of the roots from which it all came. I
had often felt it had much to do with other artists I saw and aligned
to. But that was never really valid because I felt I was really inventing
something unique. The films helped explain my own history of artistic
development," appends Renier to this section.
He stood outside the other filmmakers in his class. While they were writing
scripts and gathering actors to portray a scene composed on a piece of
paper. Renier grabbed the camera and headed out of town. Strapped to the
motorcyclist of a racing bike with bungee cords he began to focus on construction
sites and objects that flew by. It was not till they hit the back roads
that the idea for the film became clear. Travel or more eloquently put
the rhythm of motion created by the road. He was a habitual hitchhiker
so his usual perspective of the road was either static or perched high
enough a distance too great to be of any influence.
The motorcycle's perspective revealed images in the highway never witnessed
before. The speed at which this bike moved caused a strobe light like
effect as the median strip lines and dashes flashed past. The film consisted
of a multitude of small clips of passing cars, flashing median stripes,
on coming cars, and an assortment of roadside discoveries.
The original film was titled Pig Highway after finding a discarded piglet
carcass on the side of the road.
This was just the beginning of the process that ended up in 2002 as a
computer video. The next step after filming and developing was the colorization
process similar to the current methods. However the sophistication of
coloring had yet to be invented. At that time a felt tip marker a magnifying
lens and a light box were all he had. Renier preceded to hand color ten
minutes of super 8 film. This consisted of millions of individual frames
some receiving a single color and other frames getting up to 3 colors.
This enormous undertaking was a consistent commitment for over 3 months
but was finished in time for the semester film review.
The film continued to be morphed and after graduation the film was re-enhanced
by transferring it to color stock. This color film footage would later
be transferred to digital where it has been re-worked again.
The final piece is a driving music clip set to the sounds of the band
Prodigy. It retains some of its original clips but has been completely
re-edited with video special effects that refer to other ongoing photographic
projects. Most specifically photographs of the river Seine as it raced
under the Pont Neuf causing swirls and whirlpools.
"I feel compelled to state that my growth is not in
the least bit linear. The discovery of these films allows me the opportunity
to examine myself and to interject old ideas and new ideas simultaneously.
They also serve as a guideline for all my future processes," he adds.
The Vienna Film
A new country a strange language a nervous stomach led to countless hours
of television. Dallas dubbed in German was his favorite. He had little
or no clue what they were saying but knew the basis of the show and the
personalities of many of the actors. World cup ski races taught him a
limited vocabulary of fast, snow, slower and an assortment of numbers
as the racers times were being announced. However it was the government
run television format that interested him the most. Endless varieties
of documentaries about the most inane subjects flickered into his small
apartment. Sometimes the films were simple balloon ride footage filmed
over an unknown area of Austria. Finally the religious program preceded
the blowing Austrian flag proudly dancing as the national hymn was played.
Test Pattern and the day was over.
He viewed the lot on a 12 inch black and white screen.
He stumbled across a shop near the national theatre that sold colored
gels for the theatre lights and purchased an assortment of used pieces.
Finally he could watch colored television and experimented taping the
gelatins to the TV screen.
The idea was born for a new film.
Painting was the major focus of his work at the time in Vienna as he tried
to develop a simple language of shapes and forms. To ease the painting
ritual of repeating the same form over and over again he first created
a stencil to transfer the images to the canvas. These stencils wound up
being used to hold the colored light gels in front of the television.
The shapes utilized represented a human body one male and one female.
The male head was a simple circle and for the female a clover shape was
cut. The bodies were both heart shapes the legs a rectangle and the feet
were two triangles. The shapes were cut out of black carton and the gels
were mounted to the back of the boards. The stencil's size was large enough
to cover the television as well as any radiant light that may delineate
the carton's outline.
The cartons were then placed in front of a chosen program and filmed.
Again the film sat until 2002 when it was transferred to a digital format.
Once the film was more readily available to be seen (projector vanished
during a move) it was also easier to re-activate the project. After repeated
viewing and the influence of the completed Pig Highway video an interest
in music came to the forefront. Logically an Austrian should make the
music and Renier met a Music University Professor from Vienna. Ann-Katrin
Erdelyi agreed to compose a series of music tracks.
While watching the film play Erdelyi began to play the flute followed
by the piano and finally an accordion. Renier commented and instructed
the best he could to assist her in understanding the film sequences.
"I need to explain that there were two stories being
told simultaneously. The television represented the parents or perhaps
the traditions of a society. The colored light gels dancing in front was
the child fighting for attention. I thought back to the days for dancing
in front of the family set whenever my Dad started watching hours of golf.
I could imagine somewhere in Vienna a small child was also bored with
the program choices made by their parents (actually the government…they
only had 2 channels in the 1980's) I wanted Ann-Kathrin to examine this
struggle and fit it to the instruments. We figured the piano should be
the traditional or parental and the flute the playful but bored child.
The accordion was the kitchen radio in the background that never seemed
to be turned off in any Austrian household I had visited. I left her to
give her the artist freedom she desired in order to truly create a piece."
The process of assembling the music and the film clips had many twists
and turns. The story telling was being lost in the many elements of the
film. Each experiment in layering the tracks of music or time lining the
film improved the general appearance and playability. It however did not
help to convey the original idea of the struggle between parent and child.
The solution was once again dormant in another project; it just needed
to be integrated.
Resolving one’s past is often very cathartic. Renier is a father
and never forgot the words of wisdom or discipline of his parents. In
preparation of his daughter’s annual summer visit he began to commit
these words to paper. He had called it ‘Mom and Dad Said’
and meant to share it with his daughter.
“I was curious if I had, in my parenting technique,
used the same dialog from my parents? I had hoped that I could have come
up with something a bit better”, reflects Renier.
His daughter confirmed that these phrases had indeed stayed in the previous
The text in the video is also a binding element. It connects the many
different ways he has chosen to work. The recollections from his past
are a microcosm of his ongoing interest in the culture of western civilization
depicted in his photographs. They are also a compositional element creating
a reference point to view the video similar to that in the Four Elements